Your source for clear and precise news about media reports related to DeKalb County School District (DCSD).

Periodically, the district will use this forum to clarify news reports regarding its activities. The district believes its constituents are entitled to the complete story, and will always work to keep you well informed.

August 21, 2019

This edition clarifies a report about school construction costs by WSBTV Channel 2 reporter Richard Belcher on August 20, 2019. The story appeared on the afternoon broadcast.

While the story includes DeKalb County School District’s explanation in the written portion, the video broadcast included misrepresented information from district experts. To clarify this report for the DeKalb County community, it has been included in its entirety below:

We reached out to AECOM, our program manager, Cooper Carry, the architect for the Cross Keys High School project, and Evergreen Construction, the Construction Manager At Risk for the Cross Keys High School project and inquired as to why there would be differences in price per square feet. Evergreen is the same construction company that built the McClure Health Sciences High School.

The estimated amount for the construction contract is $86.8 million and divided by 338,000 SF would yield $257 per square foot. The full $102 million (full project cost), including technology, design, furniture, contingency, and all other costs, including demolition of the temporary John Lewis facility, would yield $302 per square foot. Without knowing what is in Gwinnett’s cost, it would be difficult to compare these numbers. We would need to review the systems and items included in Gwinnett County School’s costs and Cross Keys’ costs to make a true apples to apples comparison.

Below are Evergreen’s observations and comparisons between Cross Keys High School (DCSD) and McClure Health Sciences High School (GCPS):

  1. Timing – McClure High School was priced in 2016 while the proposed Cross Keys High School is projected to start in 2020. Based on 5% per year construction cost escalation and all other factors equal, Cross Keys HS should be 20% more than McClure Health Sciences High School.
  2. Direct Purchases – Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) purchases some items direct that most other schools districts choose to have the contractor purchase, including kitchen equipment, systems such as audiovisual, voice/data, lockers, and landscaping.
  3. Future expansion – The Cross Keys High School core areas (media center, cafeteria, kitchen) are designed to support additional classrooms that can be added at a future date. McClure HS’ media center, cafeteria, kitchen were not designed for future expansion. This future expansion capability adds square footage and cost to the project. The core spaces (media center, cafeteria, kitchen) are more expensive (on a square foot basis) than classroom space.
  4. Site Costs – The McClure High School site was going to be the second phase of an office development so there was not as much site work required as part of that project. Specifically, the McClure HS site costs were $5.5 million less than the current budget for Cross Keys site work.
  5. Design – Cross Keys High School includes more “21st Century Learning” design features as compared to a more traditional school. This includes interior glass partitions and daylight in every classroom. Approximately 30% of the classrooms in McClure HS are “inboard” and do not have daylight.
  6. Omissions – Because McClure High School is a “themed” high school, it does not include any athletic facilities for competitive sports such as football, baseball, softball, volleyball, tennis, wrestling, etc. There are also other programmatic components of a typical high school missing in the McClure program. The omission of these spaces causes the overall cost to be less. Paul Duke HS similarly is a themed STEM school with similar omissions.
  7. Program – The current Cross Keys design includes CTAE program elements. These spaces are also inherently more expensive than typical classroom space. The health sciences program for McClure High School did not require more expensive space.
  8. Sales tax – The sales tax rate in DeKalb is 33% higher than that in Gwinnett – 8% vs. 6%. It may not sound like much but material costs are a significant cost component of construction.

Based on the architect’s experience of four middle schools for Gwinnett County Public Schools, they had the following observations (similar to Evergreen):

  1. Gwinnett County Schools projects came in rather low compared to our other in-town projects, but to be fair, GCPS’s guide specifications dictated a different end product. Things are not apples to apples.
  2. In the past GCPS pulled out some subcontractor numbers from the base (different than how other districts do it), which yielded lower numbers. For example, GCPS would buy their kitchen equipment, lockers, and other items direct and that amount would not be recorded in their base cost. As well, often their sites start out pre-graded and pad ready, another big chunk of the cost that does not get reported in the end number.
  3. Cross Keys High School is being designed with more square footage to accommodate future growth without later having to expand core spaces such as Kitchen, Cafeteria, Media Center. Each square foot adds cost.
  4. The Cross Keys High School site is a tight and fairly complicated site as opposed to a typical GCPS site which in that past came graded and level.
  5. Historically, Gwinnett County, south metropolitan areas, and Cobb County enjoyed lower construction costs. The presumption is that these areas have more access to cheaper subcontractors from out of state that is willing to reach the outer suburbs, but not the congested inner core of the Atlanta area. With that said, in-town districts like DeKalb, Fulton, and APS, pay higher construction costs
  6. In-town sites tend to be tighter and less workable. As well there tend to be more constraints on and around in-town sites.
  7. In-Town schools tend to have different design requirements. For example, the schools that the architect designed for GCPS were required to be compact designs, meaning more classrooms packed in the middle without windows. This is cost-effective, but studies show natural light improves student performance. Cross Keys High School is designed for natural light in nearly all teaching spaces.

June 17, 2019

Poster: Setting the Record Straight Graphic VersionThis edition clarifies a print and online report from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution titled, “Most metro Atlanta teachers to get $3,000 raise Kemp pledged.”


1) “Some DeKalb employees have voiced displeasure online that the raises will not be given to speech and language pathologists, occupational and physical therapists and others in the district who work directly with children but are not on the teacher salary schedule.”


All certified staff will receive the $3,000 raise. This includes the following employees and employee schedules: (Schedule E) Teachers, Academic Coaches, Behavior Interventionists, EL Success Facilitators, Special Education Liaisons, Media Specialists (Schedule Z) Counselors, Audiologists, Diagnosticians, Special Ed Behavior Liaisons, Psychologists, Social Workers, Occupational Therapists, Speech & Language Therapists (Schedule LT) Lead Teachers (Schedule G1) Elementary Assistant Principals, and (Schedule N1) Secondary Assistant Principals. The amount will also cover all Principals as well.

Just to review, the district will give a $3,000 raise to ALL certified staff at the schoolhouse, in accordance with the Governor’s pledge.

November 14, 2018

This edition clarifies a report from the Educate DeKalb website – Specifically, this post provides additional context on the website’s “12 Reasons Lakeside High School Should Be BETTER, not Bigger” message.

  1. The DeKalb County School District plans to address overcrowding at Lakeside High School by adding 750 additional seats, bringing the enrollment capacity to over 2,500 students by 2022.
    In response to the fact that the number of students enrolled at Lakeside High School increased dramatically between 2010 and 2016, the DeKalb County School District and Board of Education responded by approving a 750-seat addition that, upon completion, would accommodate Lakeside’s existing student population.A response to existing enrollment numbers (i.e., a ‘bigger’ student body population than the present facility is able to accommodate adequately) rather than a plan to prepare the facility for future growth, the planned addition would, in fact, make Lakeside High ‘better’ by providing an enhanced learning environment (i.e., classrooms rather than portables) for all existing students.Further, new enrollment forecasts for the area will be released by the Operations Division in November 2018. These forecasts will include a prediction of Lakeside High enrollment through 2025. Should these forecasts indicate that Lakeside High enrollment numbers are expected to substantially decrease before the acquisition of an approved design for the addition, the Operations Division will submit to the Superintendent and Board of Education, a significantly reduced recommended size for the addition.
  2. The proposed plan attempts to turn a small, circa-1960, neighborhood high school, that was built for only 1,200 students, into a mega-school for 2,500+. Instead of building a large, modern, state-of-the-art school, they will just add 38 classrooms and expand portions of the kitchen, cafeteria, and media center. A school of 2,500 requires a minimum campus size of 45 acres per state DOE standards. The Lakeside HS site contains 33 acres.
    As to original facility size: The original building of Lakeside High was built in 1965 with a total of 32 classrooms. Three additions in 1967 and 1968 added 31 additional classrooms for a total of 63, or capacity of roughly 1,200 students (per Georgia Department of Education capacity calculations). In 2012, an addition of 24 classrooms was constructed at Lakeside High to make 87 total classrooms, or capacity of roughly 1,700 students (per Georgia Department of Education capacity calculations). When the addition opened in 2012, the enrollment of Lakeside High was 1,914. This grew to a peak of 2,196 students in the 2016-17 school year. In the 2017-18 school year, ten (10) portable classrooms were added to alleviate overcrowding. Since the 2016-17 school year, enrollment has fallen to 2,111 in the 2018-19 school year.As to state DOE site requirements: No DeKalb County School District facility or addition has ever been built in contradiction to Georgia DOE site requirements. The Lakeside addition will be no exception. It will be constructed upon issuance of a Georgia DOE acreage requirement waiver. Acreage requirement waivers are common in urban areas like DeKalb County, and the newest construction in the District has needed — and received — such a waiver.
  3. The proposed plan does nothing to address or enhance the overall safety and educational opportunities of Lakeside students, beyond temporarily eliminating portable classrooms.
    It is essential to understand that no design plan has been either proposed or approved for this addition. Our District is deeply committed to our students, families, and communities. As such, all project details – including design, safety, and security, educational opportunities, traffic analysis, water, sewer, etc. – will be determined with extensive stakeholder involvement via Lakeside High addition project’s formal Construction Advisory Committee (CAC) process. Please visit the school website to obtain additional detail regarding CAC composition and process.At present, the architect of record, Perkins & Will, is conducting a site-specific “feasibility study” for the project. Until this study is complete, no designs will be proposed. Therefore, any diagrams, drawings, sketches, etc. – including those referenced in the 2016 Secondary School Facility Planning & Feasibility Study – represent conceptual possibilities only. In no way do they constitute a recommended design/layout for the project.
  4. DCSD’s own published enrollment projections predict that Lakeside will be overcrowded again after the addition is completed in 2022.Forecasts made by consultant MGT of America in Spring 2016 based on Fall 2015 enrollment data and previous enrollment, referenced the aforementioned significant increase in enrollment at Lakeside High. Therefore, the 2016 Secondary School Facility Study proposed both a 38-classroom addition and redistricting of students out of the Lakeside Cluster sometime before the 2022 school year to alleviate overcrowding based on forecasted 2022 enrollment. As noted in response to Point 1, we anticipate that subsequent enrollment projections (to be released November 2018) will indicate significantly lower anticipated enrollment for the school in 2025.
  5. Much of the original building and previous 2012 addition will be entirely untouched, despite the addition of 750+ students. The unimproved portions of the campus will include the original classrooms, gymnasium, swimming pool, hallways, and stairwells (which were built in the early 1960s to accommodate half as many students), locker rooms, restrooms, auditorium, visual and performing arts classrooms, technology labs, office and counseling suites, ROTC and culinary arts classrooms, storage, workrooms, and utility spaces.
    Again, no design plan has been either proposed or approved for the new addition.Furthermore, as noted above (Point 3) and as delineated online on the school website, a dedicated Lakeside High CAC will be integral to ALL aspects and phases of planning, design, and construction throughout the entirety of the project. The CAC will function as a vital channel of two-way communication between the District and all Lakeside High School stakeholders and communities. CAC members will attend Design and Construction meetings; review and provide input on feasibility studies, drawings, and plans; disseminate project details within the cluster, and gather/share community feedback.
  6. The additional 750 students and staff will result in increased traffic on our already congested two-lane roads, which may lead to longer emergency response times and extended commute times for area residents, LHS staff, and students.As noted in response to Point 1, the sole purpose of the proposed addition is to serve the existing and forecasted naturally occurring Lakeside High population. As such, it would not add any additional students to the school from other areas. The students and teachers were predicted to be there regardless of the size of the facility.
  7. Frequent traffic congestion has a negative impact on student achievement, as students arrive late to school and miss portions of first period instruction. Buses leaving Lakeside may also be late transporting students to Henderson Middle School.Recent forecasts have indicated that Lakeside High enrollment likely peaked during the 2016-17 school year. As such, traffic congestion will only get better as enrollment decreases. Further, as previously indicated, all project details – including those involving traffic patterns and bus transportation – will be determined with extensive stakeholder involvement via our formal Construction Advisory Committee (CAC) process.
  8. Traffic congestion will likely be worse in the near future due to the development of CHOA at Druid Hills Road and the purchase of Briarcliff UMC by Globe Academy at Shallowford Road.The CHOA addition on North Druid Hills Road, between Briarcliff Rd and I-85, is quite a distance from the high school and will have minimal impact on Lakeside High area traffic. The Globe is already operating out of the Briarcliff UMC site, and there will be no changes in their contribution to traffic beyond what exists today. Nevertheless, as indicated throughout this document, the aforementioned traffic study will provide a detailed review of the traffic impacts at or near the site. Again, all project details – including those involving traffic patterns – will be determined with extensive stakeholder involvement via our formal Construction Advisory Committee (CAC) process.
  9. The Dewberry Study revealed that our fragile watershed cannot accommodate additional development in the region. The intersection of Briarlake and Briarcliff Roads floods after heavy rains and prevents safe passage for pedestrians, school buses, and emergency response vehicles. This poses a public safety threat for neighborhood residents, students, faculty, and school administration.Both the 2012 addition and the proposed addition discussed in this document include comprehensive stormwater measures to slow down the release of water during storms.
  10. The size of the Lakeside’s attendance zone, stretching from DeKalb’s border with Gwinnett County near Pleasantdale Road all the way down to neighborhoods beyond Clairmont Road, is simply too large to allow all students to participate in the many opportunities that exist before and after school hours at Lakeside, such as clubs, athletics, music, drama, volunteering, and tutoring.Currently, no high school with an attendance area bordering the Lakeside High attendance area has the capacity to relieve the school through redistricting. A 38-classroom addition, however, would provide additional opportunities to Lakeside High students that the existing facility cannot.
  11. The proposed multi-story parking garage near Oak Grove Road and relocation of the girls’ softball field to the wooded area behind the school will cause many more problems than they will solve.Again, no design plan has been either proposed or approved for the new addition. Therefore, there are no proposals for a parking garage near Oak Grove Road nor any proposals for moving the softball field. For further delineation of this fact, please refer to the response to Point 3.
  12. The DeKalb County Commission, Lakeside School Council, as well as many concerned citizens, have all asked DCSD, Superintendent Green, and the Board of Education to find a better solution to overcrowding at Lakeside High School.
    DCSD has received input from the DeKalb County Commission on the SPLOST V additions, including, but not limited to the Lakeside addition, which requests that the Board consider the impact to infrastructure. DCSD coordination with the county on infrastructure needs will respond to their requests.Additionally, during the development of the 2016 Secondary School Facility Study, Lakeside High School’s school council requested that we leave the attendance area intact (i.e., not redistrict). The yet-to-be-designed, Board of Education-approved Lakeside High School addition, referenced throughout this document, honors that request by amply serving the existing and forecasted Lakeside High School student community.

July 29, 2018

Poster: Setting the Record Straight Graphic VersionPeriodically, the district will use this forum to clarify news reports regarding its activities. The district believes its constituents are entitled to the complete story, and will always work to keep you well informed.

This edition includes important information about an article published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution detailing the results of DCSD students on the 2018 Georgia Milestones exams. The article contained four inaccuracies or misstatements that in total misrepresent the positive outcomes of our students. The story was updated on July 29 at the district’s request, but this posting is to inform those who read the AJC’s story prior to publication.

INACCURATE Statement No. 1

MISINFORMATION – “…top scoring school for third grade English was Midvale Elementary, where 99.6 percent of students were reading at a proficient or higher level…”

CORRECT INFORMATION – Ashford Park Elementary was the top scoring school for third grade English. The wrong data was cited here.

INACCURATE Statement No. 2

MISINFORMATION – “The district had a dozen elementary schools where only a quarter of the third graders were so well prepared.”

CORRECT INFORMATION – Approximately 60 percent of DeKalb students tested in reading scored at/above grade level for reading comprehension. The total Milestones tested student population in DeKalb’s Elementary schools is 23,942. 60% of the total elementary tested student population, 14,365, were proficient in reading. This represents more than a dozen schools, and represents a majority of DeKalb’s elementary school students who are reading at/above grade level.

INACCURATE Statement No. 3

MISINFORMATION – “Fifty of DeKalb’s 79 middle schools showed declines in the numbers of students reading at a proficient or better level.”

CORRECT INFORMATION – DeKalb doesn’t have 79 middle schools. DeKalb has 19 middle schools. It is unclear how this data was calculated, which student population measure was used, and if it is representative of the correct number of middle schools.

INACCURATE Statement No. 4

MISINFORMATION – “Only one other middle school, DeKalb School of the Arts, had more than half the students who were proficient or better.”

CORRECT INFORMATION – It is unclear which exact subject area was analyzed here specifically, if it was only 8th grade math or 8th grade math and ELA.

July 20, 2018

Periodically, the district will use this forum to clarify news reports regarding its activities. The district believes its constituents are entitled to the complete story, and will always work to keep you well informed.

This edition includes important information regarding DCSD bus drivers, including a fact sheet about their compensation, benefits, and career opportunities.

UPDATE: On July 20, the DeKalb County School District leadership met with bus drivers to discuss progress on addressing concerns from the drivers. Multiple media outlets reported on this meeting, as well as a separate meeting with ex-bus drivers. In order to clarify the issue, DCSD issued the following statement regarding its bus drivers.

“The DeKalb County School District (DCSD) continues to address the concerns of its bus drivers through an open, collaborative dialogue.

Today, Superintendent/CEO R. Stephen Green met with drivers in the latest step in this ongoing process. In a statement following that meeting, he noted actions taken recently that offer benefits to the drivers. To date, DCSD has addressed 22 concerns of the drivers, while another 23 are currently being addressed, and 13 more are being researched.

“DCSD continues to work with its bus drivers on solutions that address their concerns. Substantial progress has been made through a series of meetings that have led to improvements such as a new merit pay recognition program and increases salaries in the FY 2019 budget. The district remains committed to working with drivers who demonstrate a spirit of cooperation and collaboration.”

Some of those steps include:

  • A 2.5% salary increase for all employees, including Bus Drivers and Monitors
  • The establishment of a new step structure for both classified and certified staff, effective January 2019
  • Increase in extra activity budget to support Special Needs programming, athletic events, field trips, etc.
  • Restoration of the District’s Meritorious Attendance Program (annual $150.00 incentive and Spring Banquet)
  • Allocation of numerous new positions to include thirty-five (35) school Bus Monitors, four (4) Routing Technicians, two (2) Dispatch Clerks, two (2) Transportation Customer Service Representatives, one (1) Safety/Field Trainer, one (1) Bus Mechanic, two (2) Body Repair Technicians, and one (1) Electronics and Technology Repair Technician”

April 23, 2018

Periodically, the district will use this forum to clarify news reports regarding its activities. The district believes its constituents are entitled to the complete story, and will always work to keep you well informed.

This edition includes important information regarding DCSD bus drivers, including a fact sheet about their compensation, benefits, and career opportunities.

UPDATE: DeKalb County School District bus drivers employment benefits among best in region, per community fact sheet

DeKalb County School District (DCSD) bus drivers earn the second-highest hourly compensation in the region among a host of other employment benefits, including healthcare and retirement, according to a fact sheet developed by district leaders. The document, which is being shared with community leaders, contains information about past and current efforts by DCSD to provide bus drivers with competitive compensation, job benefits, and career growth, according to Superintendent/CEO R. Stephen Green in its cover letter.

View fact sheet and cover letter.

Highlights of the fact sheet include:

  • DCSD bus drivers are the second-highest paid school bus drivers among their peers Metro Atlanta school districts, including those in Cobb County, Gwinnett County, Atlanta and Fulton County.
  • DCSD bus drivers have received five cost-of-living pay raises since 2014. In 2014-15 drivers were moved from a 5 hour to 6 hour work day, which resulted in a 20 percent annual salary increase. They received a 5-percent raise in 2017.
  • DCSD bus drivers receive benefits as part-time employees. Benefits include: health, dental, vision, disability plans, long term care, retirement, sick leave, personal leave and vacation leave.
  • The district established a Transportation Leadership Academy to provide opportunities for upward mobility and career progression. District funds are utilized so drivers and monitors can obtain industry certifications.

Thank you for your making DCSD your source for news.

March 29, 2018

Periodically, the district will use this forum to clarify news reports regarding its activities. The district believes its constituents are entitled to the complete story, and will always work to keep you well informed.

This edition clarifies a report from 11Alive regarding an employee linked to a violent crime in Clayton County.


“(DCSD) have yet to notify the parents and students at the elementary school since White has not been convicted of a crime…”

DCSD contacted 11Alive on Wednesday, March 28, to clarify and correct a portion of the news outlet’s reporting that stated parents at Toney Elementary School had yet to receive notification from the school or DCSD regarding the arrest of an employee.

On March 23, the school did send home a letter with students. As of 9:12 a.m. on Thursday, March 29, 11Alive has not updated its story.

DCSD’s standard procedure is to notify all parents of events that deviate from the norm with a letter or phone call from the principal.

January 31, 2018

Periodically, the district will use this forum to clarify news reports regarding its activities. The district believes its constituents are entitled to the complete story, and will always work to keep you well informed.

This edition clarifies a report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution regarding land that will house the new Smoke Rise Elementary School.


“I have not been able to get evidence of thorough due diligence from the county,” she said. “All the sites they looked at had some risk associated. I was looking for some write-up on eliminating (risk concerns). There’s none.”

DCSD will not place a school in a location that will be harmful to students. Prior to the purchase of the property, the district conducted an extensive environmental review of the site via a third-party professional engineering firm, Matrix Engineering Group, Inc.

The engineer’s finding, based on the firm’s Risk Hazard Analysis and Evaluation, was that the site is suitable for the proposed Smoke Rise Elementary School provided that the mitigation measures listed below be implemented:

  • Minimize the use of large glass windows (max. 6 foot and 8 foot high) for a portion of the facility.
  • Utilize shatterproof glass windows for the building’s southern elevations.
  • All exterior walls should be of steel reinforced masonry construction with brick veneer.
  • Locate the buildings as far away from Hugh Howell Road as possible.
  • Create a barrier along the southern boundary of the property such as an architectural wall. The wall should be a reinforced masonry or concrete wall with a minimum height of four (4) feet.
  • Design of air handling and ventilation systems should incorporate engineering controls to prevent intrusion of hazardous airborne contaminant.
  • Prepare an emergency preparedness plan to address the potential hazards.
  • Prepare an evacuation plan consistent with the type of hazards identified to provide for efficient and timely evacuation of the buildings in case of an emergency.
  • A fence is recommended on all sides of the property.

As a result of this third-party environmental and hazard analysis, the Georgia Department of Education Facilities Services Unit approved the site location for the new Smoke Rise Elementary School, subject to the inclusion of the mitigating measure noted above.


“An email from the DeKalb County fire marshal says the site is dangerously close to a hazardous materials manufacturer.”

DCSD had discussions with the DeKalb County Fire and Rescue (DCFR) Department regarding the state of the property. At no time did the department indicate that it would be illegal or harmful to students to build on the property.

The Fire Chief offered an advisory opinion, which was reviewed by the district and considered. DCFR and DCSD will continue its ongoing discussions regarding the implementation of the specific mitigating measures as part of our collaborative site planning review process for major construction projects.

Thank you for your making DCSD your source for news.